Dusk settles on the yurt –our home for a week on the Kyrgyz mountainside- while Tania peels skins from her board after yet another hard earned pow day.
The mighty Tian Shan mountains paint a canvas on which James slashes his signature. There are first descents here a plenty. All you have to do is hike to them.
When the mountains call, you’d better be ready. Our week was a mix of stormy tree riding and clear weather alpine descents. The only common denominator was our LibTech boards used to skin to them.
It gets cold in Kyrgyzstan – down to -40 C (-40F) in January. Which is why we went in March. Eitherway the wood stove fuelled yurt stays warm and cosy all night.
If you think today’s splitboards don’t ride well, then think again. James throws in some playtime during one of our tree-line laps.
The landscapes of Kyrgyzstan are as dramatic and unique as you’ll get. Tania skins ever upwards oblivious to the dozen games of Buzkashi (goat carcass polo) taking place somewhere below.
With temps rising, we stuck to the avy-safe ridges and more mellow faces during our stay. Here James rips a ridge at a less-than leisurely pace. It’s not like anyone was going to snake his line though was it?
With the sun setting Tania cuts just one more pow turn on the way back to our yurt camp. Sited at 9500ft the camp made for easy access to the goods, and even helped a moonlit vodka-induced shred one night.
40Tribes is keen to involve locals as much as possible, a way of helping their economy. Before and after the yurt session we stayed with a local family in the village below. It provided an invaluable insight into the Kyrgyz way of life, and helped share the awareness of shred.
Before heading up to the yurt, we dropped in on the local ski lift for a shred. There’s no race for pow lines here. Most Kazakh visitors use the chairlift to merely go up the mountain for the view.
Down in the village, James preps his gear for the week-long session ahead. We skinned the initial 800m from the village up to the yurt, our gear being transported on horseback.
A highlight of our stay was visiting the local animal market. It sounds odd, but in a country where a couple of sheep or a horse is valued more and of more use than a car to many, the market gave us a feel of life here. Here a local waits for a taxi home with her purchase, mobile phone in hand.
Kyrgyzstan is all about horses. Where skateboarding might be the pastime of kids at shopping malls in the west, here the youths kick about the animal market teaching their horses to jostle –essential tactics when it comes to playing Buzkashi later.
Words & photos – Dan Milner.
There are wolves here, but right now their threat to my survival is low on my list of challenges. Camping in a remote yurt at 9500 ft for a week, having to earn each of the powder lines I’ll ride through a couple of hours of skinning at 11,500ft, and trying to preserve my vegetarian diet in a country whose national game is polo played with a headless goat carcass as a ball, seem more pressing.
I’m splitboarding in Kyrgyzstan, guided by 40tribesbackcountry.com, and am joined by Lib Tech ripper James Stentiford and Roxy rider Tania Detomas for the deluge of experiences to come. Squeezed between its big-boned neighbors of Borat-infamous Kazakhstan to the North and China to the East, the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Kyrgyzstan is classic central Asia in character. Crumbling statues of Lenin and roadside monuments to an all-but-forgotten space race are framed by a backdrop of towering mountains, themselves dissected by vast arid plains dotted with goat-carcass polo playing horsemen.
We’re splitting on the edge of the Tian Shan range, spiky peaks that tower to 23,000 ft, and there is a taste of lawlessness too, of survival and of imbalance. Roads crumble into disrepair, dragging the aging, smoke-belching Volkswagens and Ladas that travel their potholed surfaces down with them, while new and shiny Land Cruisers flash past obliviously.
It’s against this backdrop that we spent a week splitboarding the alpine and treeline faces, riding Utah-light powder and chilling in a traditional yurt each night to the sound of Kazakh radio with a glass or two of vodka in hand. So here’s a peek at the flavors of the trip.